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Visitor Information Centre Network being prepared for the transition to a 'locally funded activity'

30 November 2012

The Thames-Coromandel District Council is proposing reforms to the business model for the Coromandel Visitor Information Centre (VIC) network to ensure that when Council funding moves to a local Community Board funded activity in 2014, they are able to capitalise on technology, generate more revenue and be more resilient to market downturns.

With the recent closure of several VICs in Auckland and the Coromandel Town venture, the Council is even more determined to partner with the remaining Coromandel network to ensure they can survive and prosper in a difficult and competitive tourism environment.

Recent Tourism New Zealand data also suggests the VIC network is missing out on online revenue opportunities and needs to adapt quickly to changing consumer behaviour with the advent of hand-held devices, Ipad apps and direct bookings online for tourism products and services.

Tourism New Zealand has also reduced national marketing of the I-Site branded centres, which hasn't helped with their profile and commercial viability said Communications and Economic Development Manager Benjamin Day.

"Coromandel's VICs do a fantastic job serving our visitors and our communities. All we want to try is an approach which gets the best out of the local ownership model with the best elements of a district network

"The VICs are all owned by different community entities, which is fine, but alone they don't have the resources to get into the online selling game and some aren't as commercially focused as they need to be and I think the current membership structures around these ventures often limit their opportunities to collaborate with each other and therefore some rely too heavily on rate payer funding".

TCDC are proposing some positive initiatives to help the VICs become a more viable business so that when funding is transitioned to Community Boards, there is a "district-minded" business framework in place giving them the ability to make more revenue and to share overheads.

Council invests $345,000 per annum into the network, which has sites at Whangamata, Whitianga, Thames, Tairua and Pauanui. The Council will not be looking to increase the level of funding and is also open to the community re-establishing the site at Coromandel Town with a new governance structure that can display solid business acumen.

"I am worried that some Community Boards won't be able to afford their VIC if these proposed changes aren't implemented" said Mr Day. "We've been working on these proposals for the last year, and unfortunately they came too late to save the Coromandel Town VIC.

"If the reforms are unsuccessful, then we'll have to go back to the drawing board and look at a different approach to ownership, management and the business model, but we've got two years together to make it work and I am confident the reforms make sense and are what's needed".

Proposed reforms:

  • VICs to merge websites with our Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) Destination Coromandel (DC), to reduce costs and to start selling more tourism product online (revenue will be shared between DC and VICs). We are embarking on a major web project with DC and VICs to improve the DC website to cater for local towns and additional e-commerce functionality. TCDC will only support one official tourism and visitor website on the Coromandel, not half a dozen. This reform doesn't discount Business Associations having their own websites, but TCDC will only promote as the main Coromandel portal
  • VICs to charge all tourism operator bookings at a minimum of 10% commission from 1 July 2013, increasing to at least 12.5% by 1 July 2014 (to give operators time to budget for this increase)
  • VICs to work together to develop a common and consistent fees and charges schedule and advertising rate card by 1 July 2014  to promote higher yields
  • VICs to participate in a project with TCDC to investigate how we can share common overheads and create economies of scale (i.e. phones, broadband, accounting, technology etc) to reduce costs
  • DC and TCDC are also committed to marketing the VIC network to encourage more locals and visitors to use the services